Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Jonathan Heck, modified 5 Years ago.

Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 10/16/15 Recent Posts
Hi all -

I'm new to meditation and have recently started a Vipassana practice as outlined in MCTB. Thanks to all who make this a great resource! 

However, I have been wondering: what is the point of Metta/Loving-Kindness meditation? I saw a Shinzen video where he says how at higher levels of practice metta can have an "impact" on others around you. Similar sentiments are echoed in Sharon Salzberg's work. I wonder how true is this?

Can others actually feel this goodwill that you're cultivating towards them, or is it just another way to bliss onself out? 

I'm new here and don't mean to come off as harsh. Was just curious because I understand meditation to be an "internal" practice. This "external" aspect of metta, the ability to project something outwards, that can be manifestly experienced by others...seems unlikely.

In other words: does anyone actually feel the love?? ;)

Jon Heck
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bernd the broter, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 376 Join Date: 6/13/12 Recent Posts
Metta has a ton of effects, of which blissing out and others feeling the Metta is just one aspect.

But to answer your question:
Don't make it more complicated than it is. Can you feel when others hate you? Obviously. Can you feel when others have good intentions? Of course you can. Well, unless they are very good actors/con artists or you yourself are autistic or something.

Proof: Remind yourself of a situation where someone was really nice to you/really helpful. How does experiencing that memory fully make you feel in your body?

Also, I wouldn't say that you need very high levels of Metta practice so that the practice has some effect on others. Just start practicing and it will gradually creep into your character.
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Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Agreeing with, and expnding on Bernd's point, we are always registering the emotions of others.  It's how the human is designed, part of the survival mechanism.  The ability to sense the emotions of others (within a balance) makes us most fit for our environment.  And this 'sensing' of both our own inner environment, and the outer, social one, can be used to transcend the human condition.  One school of thought argues that an effective way to do this is to cultivate unconditional positive regard for all beings, all the time.  In this case, metta, and the other bv's are used to sublimate the psychic signals we recieve, as they come in.  Eventually, it could become automatic, which could greatly reduce suffering in a 'spiritual' way.
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy jonathan and welcome.
its a good question! 
on the most mundane level the answer is yes.  if one is walking around with a frown and seeing the world generally in a negative light the outward signs of this will be apparent and will directly affect those you come in contact with.  if that is your baseline level of operating then those with whome you are in frequent contact will assign this vibe to you and will react or avoid accordingly and that is a real world effect.

that'sprobably obvious to you though so you are sceptical about the possibility that others, outside of your standard sensory range, can pick up on this "metta energy".

in this whole ball of practice there are many things which work on an apparent level and many which we put to the test by trying them out because the connection to the mundane are less apparent.  usually we take on faith these notions based on our trust of someone we respect or based on pure curiosity.

i was attracted first to the pragmatic practices here because i am not a "faith" type...i like evidenciary based, testable practices.  some of the other practices i fiddled with at first were too fluffy and to faith / guru based and my scepticism about that framework hindered my ability to fully accept those practices.

at some point i started practicing metta when the formal, hard crunching, noting practice seemed too dry and led me away from the compassionate aspects of this path.  it was just a feeling, but it turned out to be a good hunch.

in the deeper teachings it is said that compassion and emptiness are aspects of the awakened mind, not seperate things but distinct nonetheless.   this is unprovable but experiencable.  metta practice opens us up to the compassionate aspect of the ultimate goal by helping break down the illusion of seperateness with others.  i can't prove this but it matches my experience.

so if you are asking because you are interested in seeing for yourself i would recommend doing some metta practice, if not a focused retreat as this is the best way to get something close to "evidence" in my opinion.

if your goal is just to feel better, metta can help there too.  despite the seeming contradiction in that statement, focusing on kindness toward others and developing that muscle allows one to turn that light toward oneself and release some of the burden of self-judgement we drag around with us.

metta
Jonathan Heck, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 10/16/15 Recent Posts
Thanks for the perspectives guys.

I guess my question is the result of my own ignorance.

When I do insight practice, though I'm not yet very good, I still see where it's headed. I have a momentary understanding that my awareness is jumbled up and with practice and attention, will come apart eventually.

My experience with a few Metta sits is not like this. First, I feel metta is much harder to do than insight practice -- surprisingly.

With some dilligence, I'm able to cultivate some positive emotions within me...so I understand that with enough training I could have these good emotions more frequently (that is what I meant by "bliss out"). 

But directing it outwards? To be honest, I did not feel any genuine compassion towards others. I had (some) good emotions but it's not like I rose from the cushion feeling more united with humanity. 

Is it the kind of thing that comes with time? Probably. 

I've heard it said that people on MDMA/Ecstasy feel a tremendous positive regard for those around them. So it must be the case that these feelings of goodwill towards others are within us. But in my limited experience, I've only felt good emotions inside me, nothing radiating outwards as is traditionally described in the instructions. 
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bernd the broter, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 376 Join Date: 6/13/12 Recent Posts
Jonathan Heck:
Thanks for the perspectives guys.

I guess my question is the result of my own ignorance.
You're welcome. These are all reasonable questions. I find it annoying, too, that those questions aren't usually answered up front together with providing the basic instructions.

When I do insight practice, though I'm not yet very good, I still see where it's headed. I have a momentary understanding that my awareness is jumbled up and with practice and attention, will come apart eventually.

My experience with a few Metta sits is not like this. First, I feel metta is much harder to do than insight practice -- surprisingly.
Doing Metta is much easier than insight practice: You can fuck up insight practice much easier than Metta. With Metta, as long as you just stubbornly repeat the phrases, you will make some progress. Even if it doesn't get you deep Samadhi, it will still influence your mind. (This is exactly what I've been experiencing for 2 years now.) However, with insight practice you can hang on to some hindrances and then be completely stuck.

With some dilligence, I'm able to cultivate some positive emotions within me...
Sounds like the practice fundamentally works for you. Congratulations.
so I understand that with enough training I could have these good emotions more frequently (that is what I meant by "bliss out").
Yes, and that ability can come quite fast, i.e. in just a few days of retreat.

But directing it outwards?
The idea that you direct it outwards is just one way of teaching it. Some people hear 'direct Metta outwards' and instantly know what to do, and then the practice makes sense for them and they are on a good road. I don't have that sort of intuition, and obviously it doesn't work for you either. So just ignore it. That's completely fine.
Also, in my experience, 'directing it outwards' sometimes (but very rarely) suddenly made intuitive sense. Maybe 1 in 100 sittings, but still. Take-home message: The mind changes all the time. Therefore, different approaches of Metta make sense at different times. Here are a bunch of different ways, described by one of my teachers.
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta-meditation-instructions.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta-in-everyday-life.html

To be honest, I did not feel any genuine compassion towards others.
It doesn't matter. Even if you do only Metta for yourself, it will still spread to others, given enough time. Just be patient, and watch the magic unfold, both subtly and pervasively.
I had (some) good emotions but it's not like I rose from the cushion feeling more united with humanity. Is it the kind of thing that comes with time? Probably.
 Very rarely, I have been so full of Metta that I felt 'drunk' from it. These are exceptions, but not what usually happens. It's also not what practice is aimed at. (Although it can take you to Jhana, but I can't speak about that from experience.)
I've heard it said that people on MDMA/Ecstasy feel a tremendous positive regard for those around them. So it must be the case that these feelings of goodwill towards others are within us. But in my limited experience, I've only felt good emotions inside me, nothing radiating outwards as is traditionally described in the instructions. 
No need to take MDMA. Being drunk with Metta isn't really balanced (:
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Dream Walker, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 1333 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Jonathan Heck:
However, I have been wondering: what is the point of Metta/Loving-Kindness meditation? I saw a Shinzen video where he says how at higher levels of practice metta can have an "impact" on others around you. Similar sentiments are echoed in Sharon Salzberg's work. I wonder how true is this?
Think of the people who have loved you. How can you tell that they actually loved you? Did you feel it?

There are two aspects to this, the receiving ability to accept love and the ability to express/project love. Both are important for an emotional transaction to happen. So you might start working on your ability for love/kindness/happiness to increase in size, speed, volume, throughput etc. and on a scale of 1-10 improve all the aspects until slowly you get it up to ten....only to then realize that it is actually a scale of 1-100 and there may be much needed work in this area.
Good luck,
~D
Jack Hatfield, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Does anyone actually feel Metta?

Posts: 99 Join Date: 7/5/10 Recent Posts
I agree with all the previous comments in that your own state of mind does effect others. If you are having difficulty doing metta, maybe there is an easier method of doing it. First, pick an object toward which you have a feeling of loving kindness. It could be someone in your family, friend, pet, etc. Can you feel that emotion of loving kindness? If so, you can do metta meditation. Use the words only to lead back into that feeling. Then expand that feeling to other loved ones, yourself.  friends, people that you have a neutral feeling toward, people whom you have a problem with and finally toward all living beings. Any time you lose that feeling of loving kindness, go back to that original object to connect with that feeling and then bring it forward.

At the end of all that I add the following: Go back to that original object and connect strongly with the feeling of loving kindness. Then, drop the object and just keep the feeling. Then feel the barrier between you and the rest of the world drop away. Your struggle ceases. Then feel the joy and peacefulness inherent in that feeling.

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